Posted on February 1, 2014 by

A Young Girl Reading, c. 1776, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

I received an email from someone who said that  Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai had passed her husband’s “test.”

That got me to thinking.

In my critique group, we are equally diverse: psychological suspense, science fiction, cozy mysteries, and historical fiction. So how can we critique each other? I think we do it by looking at the pieces, of which you can pick up any book on writing and find a whole bunch, but also by keeping the pieces together as one whole. That said, each of us brings different strengths to the table (literally) and yet each one of us works hard to make our writing the best it can be and to keep improving ourselves as writers.

So again, how do we evaluate?Literature_Header

I read an article online about how to  evaluate literature, edited by Theburn7, Natalia994, BR, Sarah Eliza and 4 others. They list five steps:

1. Read  the literary piece you’re planning on critiquing.

2. Examine the components of the literature: Plot, Setting, Characters, Conflict development, Climax and resolution, Themes, Point of view

3. Form an interpretation … taking the literary components into consideration.

4. Summarize … with a concise thesis statement; the purpose of your literary critique is to support your thesis.

5. Prove your interpretation.

Old book bindings

Old book bindings

When I taught on the undergraduate levels, I requested my students read at least five books a semester and provide me with a one page, two paragraph, report. The first paragraph was summary and the second was what I called a  “critical” one. And of course the students could have cheated on the first paragraph, although it’s pretty easy to spot one of those summary booklets you can buy,  and almost completely impossible to cheat on the second paragraph.

Students were required, for the second critical paragraph, come up with what I called a critical statement regarding any of the components listed above in number 2. And then they had to prove it. They had to convince me. With specific examples. No way to fake that.

 Why? Because my students needed to provide me with detailed and  specific examples  from the book itself. By the way, the grading system was so wonderfully designed that it took me about an hour to grade proximately 45+ book reports. With  scores in about six  categories plus comments. 

So what are your tests of a “good” book? Mine vary, because lately I have been reading as a writer not a reader.Literature1

I wanted to share what one of my readers shared with me about her husband’s test. (In case you were curious.)

“I have started reading your book and love it so far. I showed it to my husband and he said it passes the “sentence test,” in fact, repeatedly. (The sentence test is opening a book randomly and reading a sentence. If it’s a well written sentence, it passes the sentence test.)”

—An email from a reader

I sincerely think this reader and appreciate her/him sending me that information. How many times have you stopped reading a book? Not necessarily because the subject matter did not interest you, but because it was poorly written? As I’ve written earlier, if  historical fiction has egregious errors, I will stop reading.

So I challenge you! What stops you from reading? What are your tests?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code